There has been some controversy in recent days about the Minnesota Vikings’ interest in former Eagles offensive coordinator and interim head coach Pat Shurmur.
Shurmer’s name surfaced earlier this week as a candidate for the Vikings coaching staff and he was reportedly hired on Saturday. Word of interesti in him came almost immediately after it was announced that running backs coach Kirby Wilson was hired by the Cleveland Browns to coordinate their running game.
The controversy has come at multiple levels. First, Shurmur would seem an odd choice for a candidate as the new Vikings running backs coach. He has never been a running backs coach in his 17 years coaching in the NFL. He spent 1999-2001 as a tight ends and offensive line coach with the Eagles, 2002-08 as the quarterbacks coach for the Eagles, was Philly’s offensive coordinator in 2009-10, head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2011-12, Eagles offensive coordinator from 2013-15 and the Philadelphia interim head coach in the final game of the season after Chip Kelly was fired. He has held several different duties as an offensive coach, but one position conspicuously missing from his resume is as a running backs coach – currently the only vacant coaching spot for the Vikings.
On Saturday night, ESPN reported that the Vikings had hired Shurmur, but his responsibilities haven’t been publicly determined, although there aren’t expected to be any more changes on the offensive coaching staff. That could mean some shuffling of the duties and positions on the offensive staff.
There were also published reports that at least three other teams had an interest in hiring Shurmur. Among them are the Los Angeles Rams, who had been rumored to be looking to add Shurmur to Jeff Fisher’s staff, with some reports claiming he would be in the running to replace offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, who was fired late in the 2015 season, or as a passing game coordinator.
Where the questions start being pieced together, the Vikings’ interest in Shurmur brought other scenarios into play that are little more than speculation. Among them are that the Vikings might create a position for Shurmur, such as a passing game coordinator.
Another theory claimed that Vikings offensive Norv Turner is planning to retire. This one has already been refuted by sources saying that Turner plans to come back. In fact, during his morning radio show in Minneapolis this week, Vikings play-by-play man Paul Allen hinted to have some knowledge that if the Zimmer regime lasts for several years, in the event Turner decides to retire, the current plan is to groom quarterbacks coach Scott Turner (Norv’s son) to eventually replace Norv. Yet, the rumors persist that Norv may be heading out the door sooner than later and Shurmur provides another veteran coach with head coaching experience.
Another scenario claims that Scott Turner may be fired and Shurmur would replace him as quarterbacks coach to assist in the maturation of Teddy Bridgewater. If they were to fire Norv’s son, one can only imagine that, realistically, Norv would resign in protest. It’s hard to fire a coach’s kid and keep his father happy. This one doesn’t seem to pass the litmus test unless plans are underway to 86 both of the Turners.
Yet another scenario questions why Shurmur would even consider taking on a coaching position he has never held (running backs coach) when the Rams have already been on record as expressing an interest in considering him for a higher profile position with more authority in the offense.
The Vikings have already shown an interest in hiring coaches with previous head coaching experience to their staff. They’ve already added Tony Sparano, the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins. But, in the case of Sparano, he was on the same coaching staff in Dallas where Zimmer was building his reputation as a head-coaching material. They have a history together.
Zimmer and Shurmur have no such connection, but a lot of effective head coaches have hired former head coaches. John Harbaugh currently has three former head coaches on his staff and, during his tenure as the head coach of the Ravens, has had nine former head coaches on his staff.
It remains unclear what role Shurmur will hold with the Vikings. The most likely scenario is that he could be a passing or running game coordinator rather than a running backs coach. But as long as everyone involved remains mum, all that has been left is for observers to read the tea leaves and speculate.